Fishy Filaments take end-of-life fishing nets and turn them into engineering grade filament for 3D printing. Their filament is made only from recycled nylon and is unusual, possibly unique, in the world of 3D printing filaments. Fishy Filaments are a great example of how innovative recycling can provide materials for 3D printing which is why we are delighted to share their story in this blog.
Fishy Filaments can track the polymers they reclaim all the way from their original sources, mostly in Japan, through the global fishing net supply chain, the commercial fishery and ultimately to their doorstep. This is possible because the nylon used by commercial fisheries is made to very high standards in order to meet the demands of an extremely tough industry.
To ensure the knowledge of exactly what the net material is and where it is coming from, Fishy Filaments conduct scientific analysis to confirm documentary evidence. As well as commissioning independent 3rd party labs to make sure that the material gathered exceeds EU safety requirements.
The nets are typically used by larger Cornish fishing boats for 3-6 months, and rarely much longer. After that their surfaces become cloudy with wear and algal growth so they stop catching fish. Net lofts around Cornwall re-string frame lines (the ropes on the top & bottom of each net panel) whenever a panel gets too worn or gets ripped, and Fishy Filaments gather both full panels at the end of their useful life and fragments of repaired nets.
Consequently, the nylon may be salty and have some seaweed attached but the underlying high quality polymer is still there and we do our very best to make sure that we don’t destroy its value by over processing, adding pigments or including other chemical modifiers.
Fishy Filaments’ polymer blends are 100% recycled, with no added pigments or other modifiers. Instead they work with the nets they receive, grade them according to colour and wear, and process them separately in order to maximise their potential. The team then combine the grades to provide customers with a consistent blend that they can add their own uniqueness and value to through 3D printing.
A premium blend, and our first product on open sale, is made from a single net type and colour. These nets are used by larger vessels to catch MSC Certified Cornish Hake, amongst other species.
The ‘Porthcurno’ blend is named after one of the most spectacular beaches in the UK. Home to the Minack Theatre, the Telegraph Museum and landing point for Great Britain’s global telegraph network from the 1850s, it remains an important communications hub even in the global internet age.
Its white sand beach is made from a high proportion of felspar, worn from the Cornish granite that makes up this part of the West Penwith peninsular, and in sunshine the clear blue waters look almost tropical. Porthcurno is a special place that combines arts with technology and innovation with heritage, and marks it Cornwall’s place in the world like no other.
When printed in thin sheets Porthcurno blend works well in applications where flexibility, translucency or dye-ability are useful attributes. Its light blue-green colour and highly translucent quality mean that it will take a wide range of off-the-shelf dyes extremely well.
When printed in solid bodies Porthcurno is extremely tough.
Two other blends are in development codenamed Longships and Lamorna, whose physical properties also reflect aspects of the Cornish landscape.
Packaging & Master Spool
Fishy Filaments have reduced the amount of non-recyclable material that is shipped along with the filament, but there is a balance between waste in packaging and waste of material due to damage in transit. The team believe they have come up with that balance! Their filaments are distributed using the Master Spool concept to help reduce the amount of single use plastic in circulation and reduce emissions associated with shipping, which also saves postage costs.
“Fishy Filaments is a fantastic and innovative project. The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation represents over 160 fishing vessels in Cornwall including the Cornish Hake MSC accredited gill net fleet. We see Fishy Filaments as a great way of recycling the old netting brought in by our vessels and ensuring the recycled material is put to good use.”
Paul Trebilcock, CEO Cornish Fish Producers Organisation Ltd.
In The Classroom
This case study provides a good example of how recycling material from waste products can produce new materials for additive manufacturing, helping students to develop their knowledge of sustainability through real world examples.